The law incorporates a 12-point system for a driver’s licence–a system in effect in many countries
Violating traffic rules is common for Zakir Hossain, a motorcyclist who travels from Dhaka’s Shyamoli to Dhanmondi every day to reach work.
During rush hour, he prefers traversing intersections, even when traffic is stopped by the traffic police, to save some time.
“Morning commutes are hectic and considering that we are in a rush, each of the violations at intersections can save at least five minutes of journey time,” he said.
The biker, who also sometimes shares his ride with others, does not carry helmet for the additional riders–another violation.
During the trip, he answers phone calls–yet another violation.
According to the draft of the Road Transport Act 2018 that got cabinet approval on August 6, drivers can lose their licences if they continuously violate traffic laws.
The law incorporates a 12-point system for a driver’s licence–a system in effect in many countries.
For each of the offences, points would be deducted. After 12 points have been deducted, the licence would be cancelled.
If Zakir continues with his traffic violations, it will lead to a six-point loss in asingle day—when the new law comes into effect.
If anyone loses half (six) of his designated driving points, his licence will be suspended for a year— while it will be cancelled for life, automatically, if he loses all the points.
Points will be deducted for nine kinds of traffic violations.
“Section 11 of the new law deals with it. Each violation will lead to a one-point deduction. Once 12 points have been deducted, the licence will be automatically cancelled,” Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) Secretary Muhammad Showkat Ali told the Dhaka Tribune.
The points-based system is intended to reduce the tendency of drivers to refrain from committing small violations, he added.
The system will apply to drivers of all kinds of vehicles: heavy, medium or light vehicles; motorcycles; CNG-run autorickshaws; and all other vehicles that are included in the law.
What are the offenses?
For each traffic rule violation, drivers will lose one point.
The offences include: not using seat belts, talking on the phone while driving, driving on the wrong side of the road, ignoring traffic signals, violating speed limits, obstructing other vehicles by stopping intentionally, reckless driving, parking in the wrong place, and bad behaviour with passengers.
Signal violations and driving on zebra crossings when not allowed will also lead to points being cut.
Entering into the main street or a highway from an alleyway without stopping; violating the vehicle weight limit or driving dangerously; driving while intoxicated; or committing any other offence is banned by the provisions of the law.
If a driver loses six points, he or she will be banned from driving for a year.
Once the year has elapsed, the driver can then drive again with the existing 6 points.
But if he or she continues to violate traffic rules, points will be deducted —and once the points reach zero, the driver will face a permanent ban.
When asked about what the driver is supposed to do following the ban, an expert from the Accident Research Institute (ARI) of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) said that it has not been made clear in the law.
“The act only speaks about cancellation,” said Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, assistant professor of ARI in BUET.
He, however, praised the system, saying it exists in developed countries.
“The violation of traffic rules causes accidents and unnecessary deaths, and it is very common in Bangladesh,” he said.
BRTA Secretary Muhammad Showkat Ali, however, said the driver will be completely disqualified from driving again.
Driver’s licences in Bangladesh
Statistics from the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) say there are over 3.5 million registered vehicles in the country, but valid licences have been issued to only 2.6 million drivers.
The authorities, however, do not have any information about how many valid licence holders have not renewed their licences following their expiration.
Additionally, the Bangladesh Passenger Welfare Association (BPWA), a campaigner for safe roads, claims there are around 1.5 million illegal vehicles in addition to the registered ones, which might be driven by unqualified drivers.
According to the new law that is awaiting cabinet approval, if anyone is found driving without a licence, they will be sentenced to six months of imprisonment, fined a maximum of Tk25,000, or both.